With middleweight champion Chris Weidman’s long-held rivalry with Vitor Belfort now in the books after last Saturday night’s (May 23, 2015) UFC 187, talk has not surprisingly shifted to just whom ‘The All-American’ will take on in his next fight.
Just don’t expect a straight answer from Dana White.
Well known for his frequent circumventing of the actual topic at hand, White spoke up with a pair of contradicting interviews after the blockbuster card went down.
First he met up with Ariel Helwani to discuss the event, giving a cryptic take on the 185-pound title picture:
White described Rockhold’s enthusiasm, noting that the surging contender cornered him backstage at UFC 187 to lobby for the title shot most feel he should definitely receive:
“It took me so long to get here because Luke Rockhold had me in the hallway. Luke Rockhold said, ‘Do not give this fight to Jacare. Jacare isn’t going to try to come in and do what I’m going to do. You saw what I did to [Lyoto] Machida. That’s exactly what I’m going to do to Weidman. Me and Weidman will go after each other. It’ll be a stand-up fight. We’ll do this, we’ll do that. Let’s do this thing in Las Vegas.’
“He was all over me back here. We’ll see what happens.”
According to White, Rockhold is the clear No. 1 contender, but with Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza’s manager immediately looking for a title shot of their own, anything could happen:
“He is. He is. ‘Jacare’s’ manager texted me after the fight and said, ‘He’s ready to go.’ So, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
That sounds like Rockhold has the inner track to the next title shot, but later White, in an interview with correspondent Megan Olivi, gave a contradicting stance compared to what his earlier interview may have suggested:
The lead man now said that because of Jacare’s manager insisting they get the shot, it would ‘probably’ be Souza who gets the next shot at Weidman:
“”So Jacare’s manager hit me right after the fight and said, ‘We’re ready for Chris Weidman,’ so it’ll probably be Jacare vs. Weidman next. I don’t know. Anything can happen. We’ll see how this thing plays out. Luke Rockhold is obviously the No. 1 contender. We’ll see what happens.”
Interesting. For his part, Rockhold, who finished former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida with a devastating performance at April 18’s UFC on FOX 15, is understandably angry at the tenuous situation. He told MMA Junkie that he doesn’t understand why it’s not already common knowledge that he has the fight:
“I don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but it’s guaranteed that that’s my shot. It’s happening. They’ll be a date locked down soon. We’re fighting. I talked to Dana, and we got some things coming.”
Weidman is intent on defending the title next at Madison Square Garden in his home state of New York, for which the UFC has a speculative date of December 6 if MMA is finally legalized there later this year. Rockhold believes that to be a long wait, but it’s something he’s obviously willing to do for such a high-profile affair:
“That’s a long time, but it’s a big stage, and it’s something worthwhile waiting for,” Rockhold said.
He even teased the possibility of fighting Weidman in Las Vegas this September, winning, and turning around to rematch him for the belt in December, something that seems more than highly unlikely given the champ’s well-documented history of injuries:
“I would prefer something closer. I think (in) September; there might be a date here (in Las Vegas). Maybe we could turn it around quick and like I said, I could give him that rematch (in New York).
“I want to fight. I want to get that fight, but MSG is worth waiting for. There are still some hoops to jump through to get there. I’m hoping for the best.”
All Rockhold can do now is hope for the best, but he’s not exactly in a position to be calling his shots and dates for a title fight as the challenger.
He may not even get the fight altogether. Who do you think deserves the next 185-pound title shot?